Louis Berger scam: 14 shell companies ferried bribes to Goa netas

Panaji, March 31 (IANS) As many as 14 shell companies ferried bribes worth crores of rupees from New Jersey-based consultancy Louis Berger to politicians, namely former Chief Ministers Digambar Kamat and Churchill Alemao, and bureaucrats linked to the bribery scandal, ED officials said on Friday.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials, preferring anonymity, told IANS that detailed questions had been been sent to former Senior Vice President of the international consultancy firm, in the form of a letter rogatory.

The move is aimed to further tighten the investigative noose around the suspect bureaucrats and former company officials involved in the bribery scam.

“In order to facilitate the payment of bribes to key beneficiaries in Goa, Louis Berger officials created as many as 14 shell companies through which bribe money, to the tune of nearly Rs four crore, was eventually transferred to pay off those indicted in the scam,” officials said.

The ED has also revealed that while approximately Rs two crore had been initially agreed upon as bribe, it was raised to Rs four crore after more negotiations between the Goa politicians and Louis Berger officials.

Former Chief Ministers Churchill Alemao and Digambar Kamat and other government officials have been accused of allegedly accepting a $976,630 bribe in 2010 from the officials of US-based Louis Berger consultancy firm to secure implementation rights of a multi-billion dollar water and sewerage project in the state worth Rs 1,031 crore, funded by the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).

Top officials linked to the JICA project as well as senior Louis Berger employees, besides Alemao, have been arrested by the Crime Branch.

Kamat has been charged with criminal conspiracy under sections 120(B) and 201 (tampering with evidence) of the Indian Penal Code and other sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The FIR was first filed after Louis Berger headquarters in the US discovered during an internal audit that bribes had been paid to elected representatives and government officials in Goa for securing contracts.

Subsequently, the ED started a separate probe in the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act 2002.

Earlier this week, the Directorate has already attached properties belonging to Kamat and Alemao worth Rs 1.95 crore, which were purchased around the time the scam occurred.

“A letter rogatory has been sent to the USA for further investigation of the absconding accused James McClung, who is presently imprisoned in that country,” the ED officials said.

–IANS

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